NYT calls for Hu to release news assistant in Beijing

A sober and intelligent editorial on Hu’s rise to China’s No. 1 spot notes the secrecy involved in Jiang’s resignation and says it’s too soon to say how serious Hu really he is about reform. If he wants to prove he’s a true reformer, the editorial says, he has a great chance to convince the world:

Two days before the leadership transition was officially announced, authorities in Shanghai detained Zhao Yan, a news assistant in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times who was formerly a reporter for the magazine China Reform. Zhao’s family was advised that he was accused of “providing state secrets to foreigners.” Apparently, the “state secret” was an advance report that Jiang was about to retire. The Times says Zhao had nothing to do with the article. But the very suggestion that something that anywhere else would pass for routine politics is a state secret in Beijing speaks volumes about Chinese Communism.

Under the leadership of Jiang and Hu, China has demonstrated an enormous vitality and capacity for creative development, and economic well-being is an indispensable prerequisite for the development of democracy. But the reverse is equally true: Good government and the rule of law are indispensable for sustained development. One way to signal that Hu is not oblivious to this would be to release Zhao, and to make clear that his arrest was wrong.

This is an ugly situation Hu would be wise to bring to a close as painlessly as possible, as quickly as possible.

Update: This editorial is from the IHT, which is owned by the NYT.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

Asia by Blog

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September 30, 2004 @ 1:15 am | Comment

Good luck on that, but Zhao won’t be released anytime soon and certainly not due to editorials in the NYT. The party apparat respects strength, and caving into the demands of an impotent western press organ is nothing if not weak.

September 30, 2004 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

Why would you call the NYT “impotent”? What newspaper would you, on the other hand, call “potent”?

September 30, 2004 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

Foreign interference and the rise of neo-colonialism: these have been embedded in the Chinese psyche since the 19th century.

It followed a trader-missionary-gunboat pattern. First, traders came to explore mercantile oppurtunities.

Then, came missionaries with new ideas about freedom, equality,etc. then, of course, came the gunboats.

China’s leaders most likely view watchdog organisations and press as the new “missionaries”. If it gives in to their demands and lobbying, how soon will it (even a step at a time) before China is plunged into chaos again and at the mercy of foreigners?

Hu will bow to the party right-wing on this issue. He may be allowed to make fighting corruption, social inequities, as his top to-do listers, but on the Zhao matter, he is likely to follow the party line.

October 1, 2004 @ 3:48 am | Comment

Momo hits the proverbial nail on the head. I’d quible over the details about the impact of missionaries, but yeah in essence what he says is true. Also just because this issue is important to the NYT, it doesn’t neccessarily mean so to the CCP. Momo mentions that Hu will likely not release him, I postulate that Hu most likely doesn’t know or the issue is irrelevant enough that lower levels of the party bureaucracy handles the affair. Journalists get arrested all the time and the party bureacracy is massive, this issue maybe small enough that it may not work its way all the way up to the chain of command.

October 1, 2004 @ 1:57 pm | Comment

Also just wanted to point out that the immediate person or people who is/are highest up the chain of command who can impact Zhao’s imprisonment is not neccessarily Hu Jintao.

It is likely that Chen Liangyu, the party secretary of Shanghai, or Zhou Yongkang, the minister of Public security have immediate jurisidiction over the Zhao case. It is certainly possible that individuals even lower down the chain of command will ultimately decide of he is released or further imprisoned.

October 1, 2004 @ 2:11 pm | Comment

A front-page lead in the South China Morning Post reveals the extent of Mr Hu’s agenda for reform.

He called on Hong Kongers, including dissenters, to show more unity, to ensure the city’s continuing prosperity.

Pro-Beijing legislators won a majority in the recent elections. The rest, please fall in line.

Murasaki `Momo’ Shikibu

October 1, 2004 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

Simon’s E. Asia Briefing: 2004-10-27

The following is a digest of highlights from the past month’s Asia by Blog series over at simonworld.mu.nu. The round-up has four key areas of focus: China, Taiwan & Hong Kong (Politics, Economy & lifestyle, History sport & culture, Information), Korea…

October 26, 2004 @ 7:07 pm | Comment

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